Monday, January 18, 2010

The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club - Peter Hook

I was hoping that Peter Hook's first book would be a tell-all affair about his years with Joy Division and New Order, but that is clearly not indicated by the title. The Hacienda opened in 1982 and was effectively owned by the four members of New Order along with various other associates from Factory Records. It lasted for fifteen years, and Hook states that it was a pretty good run, in comparison with similar ventures.

This book is not as much about the post-punk scene in Manchester as it is about acid-house, which perhaps affected my enjoyment of it. Whether or not the acid-house genre has its merits, I simply never see myself being able to get into that sort of music. For those that enjoy clubbing and/or taking ecstasy, this book will be a revelation as it details the birth of that movement, more or less.

Perhaps the best thing this book did for me is give me knowledge of a couple more people and places referenced in the LCD Soundsystem song, "Losing My Edge." The significance of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage, along with seeing Gil Scott-Heron's name in print. I am just kidding of course. Hook is a natural and gifted storyteller and his perspective probably provides the definitive glimpse into this very unique space and era in club culture.

Danceteria and the other New York clubs that inspired the Hacienda seem like they would have been fun places to hang out in the early 1980s, but no sign remained of them as far as I knew in 2001. So too the Hacienda--except you start to wonder, towards the end, how nobody seemed particularly bothered by the prevalence of gangs, guns, and violence inside the club. The ethos behind the place has been touched upon previously in 24 Hour Party People--anarchy, art, and hedonism before business. Its structure is more reminiscent of the Guggenheim or other museums of modern art than the typical monotony of a rectangular dance floor and giant speakers. The concept was fantastic, but it almost never turned a profit, and Hook concedes towards the end, when his accountant asks him if he is doing it for his investments or for his ego, that he viewed it as his own private playground.

The Hacienda began more as a concert venue, and quickly turned into a place to hear DJs play. The Fall and A Certain Ratio are the only two bands that lasted the entire duration of the club, playing in its first and last years. In the late 80s and early 90s, maybe one or two bands actually played there. The reader is able to keep track of every single event ever hosted at the club, as Hook structures the book on a year-by-year basis, with a calendar attached. This can be fun at times to see, but then sometimes he includes the accounts of the club, or notes from the minutes of club owners' meetings, and sometimes I wonder why. Of course we know that the Hacienda performed poorly financially, but the numbers are just difficult to understand in general. If you are an accountant, or studying to be one, I suppose these pages will be alluring. Also, of course everything is English and accounted for in pounds, so wondering about the conversion rate, not to mention the inflation rate from twenty-five years ago, makes some of this practically irrelevant for American readers, so much so that certain statements make little or no sense:

"Think about it: the Hacienda cost f344,000 to build in 1981. That's equivalent to about three-million now. If you spent three million on a club today people would think you were potty." (31)

I guess he means, it was really expensive. But to me, that doesn't seem that expensive. I don't know. If Danceteria had six floors of party-zones, I'd be amazed if it cost less than $10 million to buy in 2009--but that is New York and maybe Manchester's property costs are not as high.

There are the typical stories of legendary characters, like one I think I had heard before, of one of my heroes, M-E-S:

"I like the Fall. Always have, and they played at the club loads of times. I think Mark E. Smith is a twat, though. A right obnoxious bastard. And he's proud of it. One of his ex-girlfriends told me that he sometimes has for breakfast Guinness and cornflakes with his favourite stimulant sprinkled on them. He denies this, which is quite funny. Must be why you've got such great teeth, Mark. We're great friends." (63)

Or another one of my heroes, in an unlikely and hilarious revelation:

"The other highlight of The Tube day was an interview with Morrissey and Rob. Now I don't know why, but Morrissey had always hated Joy Division. Maybe Rob got it right when after a lively debate as the cameras were turned off he turned to Morrissey and said, 'The trouble with you, Morrissey, is that you've never had the guts to kill yourself like Ian. You're fucking jealous.' You should have seen his face as he stormed off. I laughed me bollocks off." (79)

There is also the story of Madonna's first show outside of New York--at the Hacienda--as well as weird stories about Nico, and Hook's drug-fueled attempted seduction of one of the singers from the B-52's. Mostly what comes across, during the second half of this volume, is the insanity of the drugs and gang violence that enveloped the club. Hook reveals that he eventually sought treatment and is now sober. But along the way--particularly during the wild "interlude" taking place in Ibiza--he consumed a redoubtable number of E's.

This is required reading for anyone that cares about Manchester and its music scene--but die-hard New Order fans will not find too many salacious details. There is a bit of talk about the Technique album, and there are hints about the band's demise, but nothing outright. Hook mentions that he and Bernard Sumner both went to the Hacienda a lot, but never together. They simply weren't friends outside of the band, which makes me sad, though it probably shouldn't. They broke up and reformed several times--after Republic, and then after Get Ready in 2001 and finally Waiting for the Siren's Call in 2005. So for the last five years they have been defunct, so to speak. Hook has stated that the band is broken up, but the other members have said that it is only he who has left.

Would I go to see a Hook-less New Order? Sure. I would go to see Bad Lieutenant if I could. Should Hook drop his grudge and should New Order put out another album? Yes. Waiting for the Siren's Call is probably their worst album, I'm going to go out on a limb and say, but there are still a couple good songs on it--and a couple is better than none. In any case they should definitely do a reunion tour because they would make so much money now that it would make their heads spin. For all of the debt that the Hacienda put them into, they could stand to put aside their differences one more time for the fans.

It was recently reported that Hook is now opening a new nightclub in Manchester--Fac251--on the site of the old Factory Records offices. The Hacienda site has been turned into a condo development, which Hook actually likes, because it would be pretty cool to live at the locale of a former historical landmark. Hook's new club is opening in 10 days. I wonder if writing this book made him nostalgic for his halcyon days. Hopefully he cares about reading reviews of his first book. There is a hint of a Joy Division book to come in the acknowledgements section. His authorial debut is a success, and one hopes there will be a sophomore effort. I am sure he gets sick of people telling him that New Order should get back together, for the fifth time or whatever it is, but add one more annoying voice to the collection: New Order is as much of an institution as the greatest musical entities in history still extant--the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sonic Youth, the Fall, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop--and I hope their final chapter is not yet written.

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